As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 27, 2011


By Kim Thacker, Writer, Mommy, and Bookshop Talk Host

It’s late enough in the evening that my kids are in bed, but early enough that I can relax for a couple of hours before my own bedtime.  The house is relatively clean—dishes are done, laundry is tumbling in the dryer—and I just put on my coziest pair of pajamas.  It has been a long day.  I need to relax!  But how?

I think I’ll read a favorite novel.

Comfort reading is as real as comfort eating.  And far better for you, unless you comfort read and eat at the same time, like I do.

What I read for comfort depends on my mood, but generally I’m looking to be absorbed into a novel.  I want to become Harry Potter or Wendy Moira Angela Darling.  I want to live in Avonlea, though the wilds of Yorkshire would suit me, too.  I want, for a moment, to be transported through space and time and the boundaries of reality into wonderful fiction.

A few weeks ago, I asked my facebook friends to give me the titles of their favorite Comfort Reads.  Jane Austen novels were listed, and that made me very happy, because I also turn to her books for comfort, which makes sense, since Jane’s nearly perpetual happy endings also bring comfort to the characters women love and often relate to—characters like Elizabeth Bennett and Fanny Price.  But classic novels weren’t the only favorite Comfort Reads to be named.  Here’s the complete list (classics included):

The Anne Shirley novels (the first is Anne of Green Gables)
The Mitford novels (the first is At Home in Mitford)
I Capture the Castle (Have you all read this one yet?  We’ll keep pushing it on you until you do!  It’s so wonderful!)
The Harry Potter novels (the first is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—or Philosopher’s Stone, if you’ve got a British version)
The His Dark Materials trilogy (the first is The Golden Compass)
Emma (here come the Jane novels)

My facebook friends’ favorite genres included:

YA fantasy
YA sci-fi
Adult sci-fi
Not vampire romance (hee hee)
Historical fiction
Adventure fiction

I haven’t read many of the books that my friends listed, so I’m excited to give them a try the next time I’m looking for a Comfort Read. 

Here are a few of my personal favorite Comfort titles:

The Wee Free Men (Discworld)Terry Pratchett’s THE WEE FREE MEN.  This is the first title in a four-part (so far) series that is best consumed in indulgent succession.  Tiffany Aching’s story is about witchcraft in a world that might have been...but wasn’t.  Read it if you’re in the mood to giggle and puzzle your way through thick Scottish accents (or if you like Gerard Butler).  Give Terry’s NATION a try, too.  It’s one of those books that absorbs you but also gets you thinking about your own life at the same time.  Amazing.

Howl's Moving CastleDiana Wynne Jones’s HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE.  This is also the first novel in a series.  A witty, wonderful, sometimes (at the perfect times) romantic series.  Let’s just say I have a literary crush on a self-absorbed wizard who likes to dye his hair.  Read this if you like strong heroines and creative, fairytale (but also solidly English) settings.

The Secret GardenFrances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN.  A lovely, timeless story about Mary Lennox, an orphan who leaves India to be raised in the home of a sorrowing uncle on the moors in northern England.  Read it if you crave simplicity, a shiver or two, characters worthy of adoration, or if you have a bit of spring fever (Me!  Me!).

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1)Megan Whalen Turner’s THE THIEF.  This is the first book in a four part series that will blow you away with its complexities.  Read the whole series, because each book builds upon the last until you think your head is going to explode.  In a good way.  Read it if you like adventure and political intrigue.  I also have a literary crush on Eugenides, the series’ main character (basically), who is a bit of a coward.  But wouldn’t you be a coward too if you knew you were a pawn of the gods?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyAnnie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY.  This lovely, quick read is written entirely in letters.  Read it if you enjoy historical fiction and getting to know many characters, all of whom are richly drawn, and most of whom are truly heroic.  Only one is a footman posing as a lord.

Austenland: A NovelShannon Hale’s AUSTENLAND.  I will sing Shannon Hale’s praises until the day I die or until she produces a bad book, the latter of which will never happen.  This woman can write.  She can also make any woman (any woman, I say!) laugh.  And wish she had an eccentric and understanding great-aunt who would bequeath her a trip to Pembroke Park—an English Austen-intensive vacation site—where she could suffocate her yearnings for her own, modern Mr. Darcy in high-waisted dresses and kisses from an undergardner.  Read it if you love Austen but aren’t in the mood to wade through the language of Regency-period writing.  Give Shannon’s Bayern series a try, too.  Start with THE GOOSE GIRL, and prepare to fall in love with gorgeous young adult fiction.

Peter PanJ.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN.  Admittedly creepy (what with a flying boy with pearly-white gnashers that kidnaps kids and all), this novel thrills me through and through.  What isn’t there to love about a classic children’s (gulp) tale filled with pirate battles, jealous fairies, and nannies that bark?  Mr. Barrie knew what would grab children’s attention (or just grab children) and keep it for over a hundred years.  Read it if you want to think about the glories of childhood.  Or if you want to have nightmares.

Here on Bookshop Talk we love to share book recommendations!  So tell us, please—what are YOUR favorite Comfort Reads?


Katie L. said...

Awesome post! And I agree: there is nothing more wonderful than simultaneous comfort reading AND comfort eating. :-)

I posted Anne Shirley on your wall when you had this on Facebook...but here are a few more that you haven't named...

--Anything by C.S. Lewis. LOVE HIM.

--People Magazine. So silly, but somehow so comforting.

--Self-help titles. I don't read tons of self-help, but every now and then I find them very, well, helpful -- especially if I have a specific problem I'm tackling and I find a book that addresses it directly. There's something kind of comforting about feeling like you're doing something about whatever's troubling you, even if it's as passive as eating chocolate-covered raisins while taking in expert advice. ;-)

Shawna said...

I was surprised that Rosamunde Pilcher's "Shell Seekers" didn't make the list. I adore that book and always find myself reaching for it when I want a cozy evening of quiet bliss.

Anonymous said...

Katie: C.S. Lewis is wonderful! Thanks for introducing me to 'TILL WE HAVE FACES. Amazing book!

Shawna: I've never read THE SHELL SEEKERS! I've had it recommended to me several times, and I've even checked it out at the library...but I never got around to reading it. You've inspired me to re-add it to my To Read list!

Anonymous said...

Oh, comfort reads!!

I have to agree with C.S. Lewis. I'll read Narnia yearly until I die. And then I'll think of a way to take the books with me.

Lord of the Rings is another for me, along with Harry Potter. The Prydain Chronicles, the Hannah Swensen series, anything by Victoria Holt, Austenland by Shannon Hale (LOVE!), anything by Elizabeth Aston, Northanger Abbey, Jane Eyre, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, A Room with a View by Forster, Princess of Glass & Sun and Moon, Ice & Snow by Jessica Day George, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, the Hourglass Door trilogy by Lisa Mangum, the Emily series & The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, the Study series by Maria V. Snyder, Dracula by Bram Stoker, and the Barbapapa books by Annette Tison.

candice ashment art said...

Kim! You have inspired me to read THE WEE FREE MEN. It's sounds so intriguing, and that's just what I need. Loved your comfort book review, low on the romance :)

Katie said...

My very favorite comfort read is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Luckily it is on the curriculum for my English I class and I get to reread it once a year! My second favorite would have to be A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I could read either of these over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Ems: We need to be friends. :) I love your list! I haven't read The Hannah Swenson series, The Hourglass Door series, The Study series, or The Barbapapa series. Thanks for the recommendations!

Candice: You will LOVE THE WEE FREE MEN! Also NATION (I'm rereading it right now, it it is so phenomenal). He's a very visual writer, so I can see you totally getting into his stuff, since you're an artist extraordinaire!

Katie: You listed two gorgeous books! It sounds like you're into historical fiction. Have you read any of Richard Peck's stuff? It's usually a bit humorous, so a little different from the books you listed, but you might love it! Also the new Newbery winner, MOON OVER MANIFEST. Let me know if you try them!

Alix said...

Great topic Kim. So many books I love on here (maybe because i bombarded you on Facebook!) my ultimate comfort read is definitely The Pursuit of Love. But I do love the Terry Pratchett books featuring Granny Weatherwax and also Susan the gothic governess :)

Anonymous said...

Alexa: SUSAN THE GOTHIC GOVERNESS???!!!!! What?! Am I missing out on a great Terry series? Details, please!

Meredith said...

Howl's Moving Castle is definitely one of mine, too! As for others, Beauty by Robin McKinley,Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris, and Sorcery and Cecelia, Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

And I don't want to be a suck up, but totally Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. I love you, Luka!

Looking at my list again, I realize that all of my comfort reads are super girly. Good times.

Emilee said...

My favorite comfort reads are usually YA fantasy--my favorite authors being Robin McKinley and Shannon Hale. I also reach for A Wrinkle in Time over and over again. I think that it reminds me of my childhood and a simpler time when I could stay up most of the night reading books under the covers with a flashlight.

Kelly Mc said...

My favorite, favorite book of all time is The Secret Garden. A Little Princess is also a very favorite book of mine.

I truly love Noel Streatfeild and Jean Estoril's books- I have them all and love to read them.

Julie Edward's Mandy is so very, very wonderful!! :) I love it because 1) Julie Andrews wrote this!! I know, if you love her in musicals you will love her as an author. 2) Something about little orphan girls finding their place in the world is just endearing and wonderful.

I adore Little Men. I have always found the boys more fascinaing than the girls.

I found a great love and affection for Suzanne Collin's Gregor the Overlander series. Wonderful characters and story line... just a great series to get lost in.

Oh gee... I guess I need to do some more reviews for Bookshop Talk!!! :)

pie said...

I have a comfort books shelf on Goodreads! I'm glad you mentioned The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, because I need to add that to my shelf. Also on it are the Penderwicks books by Jeanne Birdsall, Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace and Taking Care of Terrific by Lois Lowry.

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I'm so glad Ender's Game made the list and I loved Shades of Grey and Everlost too. This post made me happy, just like comfort reads should.

Anonymous said...

My to-be-read list keeps getting longer and longer...

I'll comfort read pretty much anything, but the books I keep coming back to over and over are the Harry Potter series, the Belgariad and Elenium series by David Eddings, and The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Best comfort food to go with a novel: peanut butter M&M's.

Anonymous said...

Meredith, Emilee, and Kelly: It sounds like we have the same taste! I love the books and authors you all listed.

Meredith: I've only ever read Patricia Wrede's Dealing with Dragons! I'm going to have to check out Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (I love clever titles!). And yes, isn't Jessica's stuff wonderful?

Emilee: YA fantasy is my fave, too!

Kelly: The Secret Garden = big sigh. I love it! I haven't read Jean Estoril's books--thank you for the recommendation!

pie: What a great idea--to have a comfort books shelf on Goodreads! May I copy you? :) And I agree--the Penderwicks books are lovely!

Charlie: Yay! I'm glad this post made you happy! Your comment made me happy!

Laura: My To Read list is eternal, too! :) It's so great that there are so many good books out there! I totally love the HP books. If I ever get to meet J.K. Rowling, I will kiss her pretty British toes for writing such fantastic stuff. I haven't read David Eddings' books--I'll add 'em to the list! And PEANUT BUTTER M&Ms?!!!! Oh, help me. YUM.

Amy Finnegan {} said...

Sheesh, you guys have compiled a truly fantastic list!

My To Read list is honestly about 60 books long now! It's awesome!!

My comfort reads:

*Harry Potter, first and foremost. Always and Forever. Both my husband and I have the CDs in our cars at all times, and it doesn't even matter which book it is, we just have to have them there so we can listen whenever the mood strikes us. Which is OFTEN! I really can't get enough of these books. They never cease to make me smile or cry or want for more

*I Capture the Castle. I read it at least once a year, if not, twice.

*Jane Eyre - same thing. This is a once a year read for me.

*Emma - my favorite Austen! Gets funnier every time.

*Walk Two Moons - what a priceless gem. This is the only semi-sad book you will ever seen on my comfort list. The humor in it overshadows the sorrow.

*New favorites include my two favorite books from the last couple of years: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (wow. wow, wow), and The Help (triple wow again).

Then I have a funny little affair going on with two of Meg Cabot's books that I read whenever I just want a fun, humorous story in my hands. I'm pretty sure that Jessica Day George and I are the only people to have ever read these novels of hers, though, and I'm going to post reviews on them soon, so I will resist revealing their titles at present :)

How's that for a tease!?

 Keep the lists coming - great stuff here!

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Great post, Kim. One that could go on and on, there are so many wonderful reads. So glad to see "Austenland" there. Delightful.
I like everyone's suggestions too. Might I add, Daphne Du Maurier's "Frenchman's Creek"?

Anonymous said...

Amy: I'm so glad we think alike. :) Did you know the destination in Walk Two Moons is Lewiston, Idaho, which is right by where I live? Wanna come visit?

Kim: I found a first edition of Frenchman's Creek--and I haven't even read the book! I bought it, because I do like Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. you want my Frenchman's Creek?

Lisa Hathaway said...

My to-read list is now a mile long.

My comfort reads are An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I can't count how many times I've read these books.

Anonymous said...

Lisa: I love Gail Carson Levine's stuff, too! Have you seen her amazing website? She is the best blogging author EVER. Love this woman!

Meredith said...

Kim, I think you'll love Sorcery and Cecelia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot. It's kind of like Harry Potter meets Jane Austen. Two of my favorite things!

*katie said...

I've only read one book by Kate Morton, but I LOVED it, definitely in my top 10 favorites! The Forgotten Garden...her newest book is The Distant Hours and I definitely want to read it, I've heard good things about it.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Thank you for this list! So many books for me to add to my list! I have to admit Anne George is on the top of my comfort reads list...and Jenny Crusie, Lisa Lutz, and Deanna Raybourn. I plan to look up Capture the Castle right away!

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

Well, Kim, you must read that first edition of "Frenchman's Creek" before offering it to someone. But you know me...I'll never turn down a book.
May I add a new series that I loved? Very romantic, Gothic and Victorian with an Albino heroine. It's titled, "The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker" by Leanna Renee Hieber.

Valette M. said...

Anything by Edward Eager or Louisa May Alcott.
"I want to win a book."

Jaina said...

Grace Livingston Hills. They're just so safe and predictable (with a picture-perfect happy ending), and sometimes after a hard day or some thought-provoking books I just need to wind down and spend some time reading Grace Livingston Hill novels. My guilty little secret.

Julie said...

Mine are "Ella Enchanted," "A Series of Unfortunate Events," "Tell the Wolves I'm Home," and the Hannah Swenson series by Joanne Fluke. I was considering writing a review of Fluke's series for Bookshop Talk and posing the question: Should we ever feel guilty about a "guilty pleasure" read? Fluke's series are very light, cozy, and comforting, and, although they are mysteries, don't contain an awful lot of sleuthing. I consider them to be my guilty pleasures, but maybe I shouldn't feel guilty about reading something light and fun to escape from the world every once in a while.

I want to win a book!